Building a shack is like writing a book.

First I waited years on a list to get a piece of hardscrabble hillside. They call them allotments and I have to grow fruit and vegetables and flowers on it. The allotment is in a valley of ramshackle allotments called Roedale. From a perch at the top of my alloted space I can see the sea. When the sun shines it is like a very part of heaven.

I will build a shack. I can’t buy a shack or magic one up overnight. I have to collect the material for it, piece by piece. Luckily I have a car, so everytime I see a skip outside a house I slow down and look in it. Sometimes I strike gold. Timbers, ripped out from house extension work, are tossed away. I stack them carefully on top of my car and drive them to the acre.

See what I’m doing. It’s like the mental process of writing a book. You have to collect a lot of old dross before you can write. Some of it is big strong timber and some of it is wormy slag, but you don’t know what you’ll need until you commence work.

I have to build a platform for the shack. I have to build an outline for my book, or a structure, or a plan. If the base isn’t solid, it will not stand.

Then, painfully, piece by piece, I can start to construct this monster. Of course, in my mind’s eye, I know how it will end up. I have seen it, otherwise I never would have started. But there is a long journey between a vision of glory and creating that glory. And of course, for everything that you add to the structure, everything else might change. Sometimes you’ll find that, despite collecting a huge pile of materials, enough that it looked like two or three novels could be built from this, you will run out of content, of ideas, of joy, of momentum.

Then the process of collection must being anew. In fact it must never stop. This writing lark is a continuum, there is no start and no end. Everything comes from everything else.

One day my shack will be built and I will sit in it and write my third novel.